Karachi Paralyzed. 30+ Dead. Targetted Killings Continue. Citizen Brace For Even Worse.

Posted on April 30, 2009
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Law & Justice, Politics
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Adil Najam

It is not as if there is a dearth of bad news in Pakistan. But bad news attracts more bad news. That is the nature of the politics of downward spirals.

Karachi has been far from calm for a very long time (here, here, here, here). Yesterday, the heat went up again. During this month of April alone there have been more than 50 targetted killings in Karachi. Yesterday, more than 30 died as more escalated public violence broke out. Today the city is reported to be paralyzed. Even though there exisits an uneasy calm in town, many wait in fear as things going even worse in Karachi will really surprise no one.

In a post back in November, 2008, I had written:

Karachi used to be called “the city that never sleeps.” It may as well now be called “the city that forever bleeds…

Everyone seems to know the script of the drama that is about to unfold, yet again, on the streets of Karachi. Except that the deaths will be real, not make-believe. Those who will be doing the killing have been arming up. Those who will be doing the instigation have already upped their rhetoric of hate, division and violence. Those who will be doing the dying, remain on knife’s edge, hoping that they will not be called upon to be sacrificed in the rituals of ethnic murder, so close to the Eid of sacrifice. The rest sit stunned in inaction as the politics of mayhem readies to raise its ugly head yet again. We see Pakistani kill Pakistani in the name of Pakistan. We sit afraid. Very afraid.”

The post was titled, “Karachi Bleeds Again: Worse To Come?” Obviously, it came. One can ask that question again: Will things get even worse? Many would answer, “Nearly certainly.” I hope they would be wrong, but hope does flickers when things get as bad as they have.

One assumes that our readers know all the gory details of what has been happening in Karachi. If not, here is a story from Dawn:

The city remained virtually paralysed by fear on Thursday with most businesses closed and many public transport vehicles off the city roads, as violence, which was triggered on Wednesday, killed scores of people in 24 hours and forced citizens to remain indoors. Incidents of firing and arson early Thursday morning further convinced citizens to remain at home rather than go to work, resulting in low turnouts at both private and government offices. Several bank branches remained shut due to the lack of staff. Normally abuzz with activity every morning, the city wore a deserted look, as schools and all other educational institutions also remained closed, in line with a late-night government decision.

With no official word from the authorities so far regarding the reasons for the violence, transporters and representatives of the business community doubt the situation will get much better in the coming few days. ‘The majority of transporters are convinced that the situation is not fit for business,’ said Irshad Bukhari, president of the Karachi Transport Ittehad. ‘A total of 55 minibuses and coaches were set on fire in less than 12 hours and some four drivers lost their lives in incidents of targeted killing,’ he said. He said a senior official of the provincial transport ministry approached him after the incidents of arson, and assured him that further deliberations and discussions on the subject would take place to provide protection and security to transporters. ‘But there has been no response yet after that single call. We have called our general body meeting on May 2 to plan our future strategy in the wake of the recent spate of violence,’ added Mr Bukhari. ‘But I don’t think that there would be any positive response from our members to cooperate with the government without any solid measures [on the government’s part].’

MOST MARKET REMAINS SHUT. The transport sector was not the only one badly hit by the violence. Major business centres in the city also remained closed, while there was hardly any activity at retail markets in the metropolis. Most markets remained shut, though a few did open in residential areas in the southern district of the city. Business leaders allege that though currently shops and businesses are being targeted on the basis of the ethnicity of the shops’ owners, shopkeepers of all ethnicities are still worried about the development. ‘In old areas of the city, there are nearly a dozen retail and wholesale markets, and people there received threats from unknown groups through pamphlets to keep their businesses closed,’ said Ateeq Meer, chairman of the Alliance of Market Associations, which is seen as a common platform for nearly 300 market and traders’ associations in the city. He observed that while the majority of market associations decided to shut down of their own volition, given the unavailability of transport and the absence of staff, traders in Mithadar, Kharadar, Light House, Kapra Market and some other busy markets were formally asked to observe a ‘holiday’.

‘We have seen a dangerous trend in the recent violence, as the shops of only those traders have been damaged who belong to a particular ethnic group,’ Mr Meer said. ‘For instance,’ he added, ‘the majority of those who have lost their shops were traders of carpets, cloth and second-hand garments. These people have been engaged in these businesses in Karachi since the inception of Pakistan.’ Both the transporters and traders were in agreement over their reaction to the government’s promised measures to contain the violence and arrest those responsible. ‘We have been given assurances for decades, but they have never worked,’ said Mr Bukhari, of the Karachi Transport Ittehad. Mr Meer, of the AMA, echoed these thoughts, saying ‘it is time to act, rather than to make pledges. We witness government announcements after every outbreak of violence, but the bloodshed returns after every few months.’

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Another news item in Dawn, explains how this is an escalation of a longer campaign of violence:

As many as 50 people were killed and 94 others were wounded in different incidents of targeted killings carried out in the city during the month of April. Up till April 28 the police record showed that 16 people had been shot dead in different incidents of targeted killings. However, on April 29 there was a sharp spike in the violence, as the figures soared to 34 persons killed and 40 wounded in a matter of hours by unidentified gunmen in different parts of the city, statistics gathered by the police showed. The statistics further showed that during the month-long acts of violence, 43 people belonging to the Pakhtun community were killed while seven Urdu-speaking people were slain in different parts of the city, the police data indicated, lending strength to the argument advanced by some observers that the violence was designed to foment ethnic unrest in Karachi.

Apart from the loss of life, mostly private property including shops, hotels, auto-rickshaws and minibuses, were also set on fire by unknown suspects in different parts of Karachi. It should be noted that while these targeted killings occurred across the city throughout the month, the police and Rangers failed to check these incidents. Following city-wide disturbances which erupted after the targeted killing of an activist of the Pukhtoon Students Federation at Pakistan Chowk in the limits of the Aram Bagh police station, the administration imposed a ban on pillion-riding in the city. But despite the imposition of the ban the targeted killings continued unabated, as the law enforcement personnel failed to nab even a single suspect involved in the violence.

The ethnic dimension of how events are unfolding in Karachi makes things even more worrisome and dangerous. Using religion as a justification for violence, as extremists and terrorists are doing in Swat and elsewhere, is dangerous. Using ethnicity to do so is no less dangerous.

35 responses to “Karachi Paralyzed. 30+ Dead. Targetted Killings Continue. Citizen Brace For Even Worse.”

  1. Evan says:

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  2. Mansoor says:


    It might be too late to respond now but I am not a regular blogger and totally forgot about this. I was reading this article about MQM and thought to revisit this page to see if anyone had responded to my comments. revolt-to-redemption/

    Its a balanced one and I would suggest everyone to read it.

    Now coming to the points you raised.

    I can write a book in response to your comments but I really dont have time and I dont think that you will agree with me just as I dont agree with you.

    I have answers to each and every point you have raised but my questions in the earlier comment are still unanswered.

    Why dont you respect the opinion of 85% of Karachiites? MQM won 17 out of 20 NA seats from khi.

    And none of your justifications satisfy me. Infact it just reiterates my point about the heavy bias that I mentioned earlier.

    just a few bullet point answers/corrections

    – Farooq Sattar’s Mayorship – can provide a list of development work (e.g the karachi cirular railway and the foundation work for a mass transit system)

    – people paid that price to PPP, PML(N) and the establishment for starting a truly people’s movement threatening the powerful establishment and feudals, not to MQM

    – MQM was not in control during the 90’s, PPP and PML(N) were

    – karachi is the blood line of the country but people are only interested in the revenue it generates and dont want to respect Karaciites opinion

    – I can write a much longer list of stories about other parts of Pakistan and I can still assure you that Karachi is in a much better shape than these places. I am in Karachi these days and it is a true pleasure to see the city flourishing.

    – death toll in the tribal conflicts in FATA is much higher, why not talk about them?

    – ANP and pathans say “hathyar hamara zewar hai” meaning weapons are our ornaments, why not deweaponise NWFP?

    – I have spent 25 years in Karachi but never experienced bhatta collection from any MQM member

    I know that you can come up with another response and we can carry on like this forever but my point is that we all believe in democracy so let us elect our representatives and leave others to elect theirs.

    If people elect MQM and they are happy with their work for the poor and middle class then let them do their job.

    Democracy means something!!!

  3. Raza Kan says:

    Dear Mansoor I highly respect your opinion and your view about Mustafa Kamal, it is out of question to deny the fact that great work is done by CDG Karachi under Mustafa Kamal mayor ship but let me remind you that it is not the first time MQM is in the Government and Mustafa Kamal is not first MQM mayor of Karachi before him Dr. Farooq Sattar was mayor of Karachi for four and half years, and during last 20 years MQM had 90% elected councilors and nazims in the city. Questions : What great work was done by MQM during these years ? What price people of Karachi has to pay for these bridges and roads, have you ever wondered? Do you think that these developments worth so many innocent lives and so much destruction Karachite has faced

    This is very true that PPP has not done anything to Larkana or even Liyari which is constituency of Bhuttos since decades. But MQM also in total control of the city since last 20 odd years and these developments were only started after people started appreciating Naimat ulla khan work in Karachi.
    I have seen these bridges and underpasses in Lahore 10 years ago whcih are constructed in karachi now or constructed in other underdeveloped countries but they dont had to pay that price which we paid to MQM.

    Why people make such a hue and cry when it comes to Karachi and MQM, the reason is Karachi is a back bone and blood supply line to the country, it can be said that if Karachi is stable the country is stable, and also that it is densely populated with people from all over Pakistan and if a person from any other province is get killed, specially in ethnic violence, his dead body send negative feelings to other part of the country.

    Your comments

  4. Mansoor says:

    Well, I wasn’t expecting such a prompt reply.

    With regards to MQM ruining Karachi, I witnessed it myself when I visited my hometown last year that whether it was in ruins or flourishing under Mustafa Kamal for whom I have utmost respect for the work he has done, but my guess is that you would disagree with it and this a classic example of difference of opinion but then the vast majority of Karachi’s citizens appreciate MQM’s work and agree with me by electing MQM’s nominated candidates then why don’t people find the courage within themselves to respect others’ opinion?

    And why don’t people lash out at PPP for not doing anything for Larkana? which as far as I am aware is actually in ruins and PPP is in control there.

    Or at PML for letting that poor guy suffer in Punjab who was chained with a chaudhry’s cattle at his mansion. You must have seen that news yesterday on ARY One World. PML is in control there.

    I can assure you that Karachi is in much better shape than these places.

    And yes I am guilty of hiding a crime but whom should I disclose it to? the said people were in close contact with their respective law enforcement agencies. They can’t think of messing with those highly influential personalities with strong political affiliations.



    “No matter what happens in Karachi MQM is blamed by default. Why?”


    ” Lahore where my own friends proudly tell me about how they used their amunition against their rivals and on basant? Why?”


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